Energy Bill [HL]

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:30 pm on 23rd March 2004.

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Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) (Food, Farming and Sustainable Energy) 5:30 pm, 23rd March 2004

My Lords, the provisions in this part of the Bill relating to the criminal law are modelled on those in the Petroleum Act 1998, which itself consolidates a similar provision in the Oil and Gas (Enterprise) Act 1982. There is therefore quite a long history of treating offshore activities in this way. Quite a lot of modern legislation includes provisions for officers of corporate bodies to be punished when it can be proved that they had consented to or connived at criminal behaviour by the company or were negligent in allowing that to so happen.

I understand the point that the noble Lord is making, but there is a corporate responsibility here. It is largely corporations which will be operating in these renewable energy zones and on the installations to be established there. Officers of corporate bodies have a responsibility if it can be proven that they consented to or connived at the commission of an offence. The noble Lord is right that the provision extends the liability for an offence; it does not extend the definition of an offence as compared with onshore, but it is done in a way which has applied in the offshore petroleum industry since the 1980s for the reason that, by and large, what happens on oil and gas platforms and, likewise, offshore wind farms, is a corporate responsibility.

That seems to us sensible; I am not sure that the noble Lord has convinced me otherwise, although I understand his point. However, I am not at this stage inclined to accept that we should treat this differently from the very analogous situations that exist elsewhere offshore.